Unionized Educators Credit New Era of Collaboration with City Leaders as Key Element in Award Announcement

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) issued the following statement applauding the recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to award Chicago Public Schools (CPS) close to 200 buses and more than $35 million under the EPA’s 2023 Clean School Bus Grant program:

Every school day, thousands of Chicago students traverse our city to attend a school. Regrettably, these journeys are often long and arduous and require multiple modes of public transportation. With a recent decision by CPS to not bus “general education students” and a looming shortage of licensed bus school drivers, these journeys have put our students, their education and their well-being at risk. This problem is acutely worse for our students in magnet and selective enrollment programs.

Thanks to the organization and leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union, the mayor’s office, and CPS this $20 million investment will enable CPS to purchase 50 electric school buses that will not only make the journey to school more accessible for thousands of students but will decrease the burden that this journey has on our environment and climate change globally. Addressing the shortage of bus routes for many CPS students, the award will also allow CPS to hold private bus vendors accountable for another 140 electric buses that will replace their current diesel-powered fleets.

This decision speaks to the incredible transformation possible when unionized classroom educators, City Hall, CPS, and community members work collectively to build a stronger, safer, and more environmentally sound Chicago for our students and their future. From the beginning, this was a collaborative process where the CTU, Climate Jobs Illinois and Jobs To Move America worked closely with the City of Chicago and CPS to make the idea of a cleaner, greener and healthier school district a reality.

Today, we celebrate our collaboration and its role in the decision made by the Biden-Harris Administration’s EPA to invest in our city’s public schools and their commitment to a more sustainable transportation system for our students. This decision speaks to the incredible transformation possible when unionized classroom educators, City Hall, CPS, and community members, work collectively to build a stronger, safer, and more environmentally sound Chicago for our students and their future.

Beyond accelerating the transition to low-and-zero-emission vehicles, these federal dollars will take our school district one step closer to creating more sustainable green community schools.

“For years, CTU and our community partners have raised our voices at board meetings and in the streets, demanding that CPS create, develop, and implement policies that make accessibility to public education easier. Our work has to be collaborative and centered on the needs of all students,” CTU President Stacy Davis Gates said. “Today’s announcement is a result of our collaborative work in action. Whether it be CTU’s first Environmental Justice Freedom School–where 20 environmental justice student interns–or our voices at school board meetings, our advocacy is showing tangible results.”

While narrow in its investment, these 50 new buses should be the catalyst to make a 10-year master facilities plan that transforms CPS into a green school district a reality. Until then, we will continue speaking up and collaborating to improve this city and its classrooms for our students, their families and the environment.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 300,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.